A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
I am a watchdog. My name is Snuff. I live with my master Jack outside of London now. I like Soho very much at night with its smelly fogs and dark streets. It is silent then and we go for long walks. Jack is under a curse from long ago and must do much of his work at night to keep worse things from happening. I keep watch while he is about it. If someone comes, I howl.
We are the keepers of several curses and our work is very important. I have to keep watch on the Thing in the Circle, the Thing in the Wardrobe, and the Thing in the Steamer Trunk, not to mention the Things in the Mirror. When they try to get out I raise particular hell with them. They are afraid of me. I do not know what I would do if they all tried to get out at the same time. It is good exercise, though, and I snarl a lot.
I fetch things for Jack on occasion, his wand, his big knife with the old writing on the sides. I always know just when he needs
them because it is my job to watch and to know. I like being a watchdog better than what I was before he summoned me and gave me this job.
So we walk, Jack and I, and other dogs are often afraid of me. Sometimes I like to talk and compare notes on watchdogging and masters, but I do tend to intimidate them.
One night when we were in a graveyard recently an old watchdog came by, though, and we talked for a time.
“Hi. I’m a watchdog.”
“I’ve been watching you.”
“And I’ve been watching you.”
“Why is your person digging a big hole?”
“There are some things down there that he needs.”
“Oh. I don’t think he’s supposed to be doing that.”
“May I see your teeth?”
“Yes. Here. May I see yours?”
“Perhaps it’s all right. Do you think you might leave a large bone somewhere nearby?”
“I believe that could be arranged.”
“Are you the ones who were by here last month?”
“No, that was the competition. We were shopping elsewhere.”
“They didn’t have a watchdog.”
“Bad planning. What did you do?”
“Barked a lot. They got nervous and left.”
“Good. Then we’re still probably ahead.”
“Been with your person long?”
“Ages. How long’ve you been a graveyard dog?”
“All my life.”
“It’s a living,” he said.
Jack needed lots of ingredients for his work, as there was a big bit of business due soon. Perhaps it were best to take it day by day.
Made the circuits. The thing in the Circle changed shapes, finally making itself look like a lady dog of attractive person and very friendly disposition. But I was not fooled into breaking the Circle. It didn’t have the smell part down yet.
“Nice try,” I told it.
“You’ll get yours, mutt,” it said.
I walked past the various mirrors. The Things locked in them gibbered and writhed. I showed them my teeth and they writhed away.
The Thing in the Steamer Trunk pounded on the sides and hissed and sputtered when it became aware of my sniffing about. I snarled. It hissed again. I growled. It shut up.
I made my way to the attic then and checked out the Thing in the Wardrobe. It was scratching on the sides when I entered but grew still as I approached.
“How’s everything inside?” I asked.
“Be a lot better if someone could be persuaded to turn the key with his paws.”
“Better for you maybe.”
“I could find you lots of great bones, big ones, fresh, juicy, lots of meat on them.”
“I just ate, thanks.”
“What _do_ you want?”